angle-left 50-Year Breeders: Leland and Debra Buller

50-Year Breeders: Leland and Debra Buller

These North Dakota ranchers focus on raising horses that owners could love and enjoy.

For 50 years, Leland and Debra Buller of Wing, North Dakota, have been breeding American Quarter Horses. (Courtesy photo)

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By Richard Chamberlain for The American Quarter Horse Journal

Leland and Debra Buller have spent a half century breeding and raising American Quarter Horses. Leland is an auctioneer, and he and Debra raise horses on their ranch near Wing, North Dakota.

“We started breeding Quarter Horses in 1964,” says Leland. “I bought my first registered Quarter Horses in 1962, a yearling filly out of a granddaughter of Blackburn. She was so willing to do anything you wanted. In 1967, I purchased a yearling son of Mr Blackburn 11. That proved to be one of the most intelligent and athletic horses we’ve ever owned.”

Buller Quarter Horses runs a broodmare band of 22 head, down from what once was as many as 45 mares. The band comprises daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters of Mr Blackburn 38, Mr Blackburn 40, Mr Blackburn 41, Mr Blackburn 76, Poco Pine, Poco Bueno, Blondy’s Dude and Some Kinda Bandit.

“Those horses represent top-of-the-line performance and halter pedigrees past, present and future,” Leland says. “I was impressed with what the Blackburn Ranch at Bismarck was doing with the Pretty Buck, Blackburn and Poco Bueno crosses. I decided that these were the type of horses we wanted to raise, horses with good minds that are easy to train and very athletic.”

In 1978, the Bullers purchased Some Kinda Bandit, a Poco Pine- and Bert-bred horse. The Bullers followed that with Mr Blackburn 953, a Mr Blackburn 40- and Mr Blackburn 11-bred stallion, and then Coco Blackburn, a son of the Blackburn Ranch’s AQHA Champion stallion Mr Blackburn 40.

“We are blessed to have owned and been part of the Blackburn and Poco Bueno legacies for so many years,” he says. “They represent the versatile Quarter Horse that can rein, cut, rope and barrel race or be a ranch horse. We have been honored to see some of the quality horses we have produced excel in those areas.”

The horses have left indelible memories for the Bullers.

“I’ve been so fortunate that God allowed me to share the horses I love with so many people,” Leland says. “One of my most memorable experiences was with a horse I owned in the 1960s: Wimpy Eleven by Mr Blackburn 11. He was the smartest horse I’ve ever owned. He was so fun to train; he would get it so fast. He loved to cut cows. One day, we were sorting cows from calves and one cow wasn’t having it, so ‘Wimpy’ got a mouthful of hide on her back, spun her around and pushed her to the gate. When she was out of the gate, he let go.”

Leland notes that memorable experiences also can be sad.

“We lost Coco Blackburn,” Leland says. “I was going to the barn to feed the horses that morning, and before I got there, I heard banging sounds coming from the barn. ‘Coco’ was struggling to get to his feet. I went back to the house and called the vet. He said he would be there as soon as possible, but he lived 25 miles from our ranch. I went back to the barn and Coco was up on his feet. I went into his box stall and talked to him and petted him. When I went to leave, he blocked me and put his head on my shoulder, so I thought I could spend a little more time with my old friend. After a while, he turned away and I went to feed the other horses. I only took a few steps and looked back, just to see him go down. He had said his goodbyes and he was gone.”

Gone but not forgotten.

“We have always tried to raise good, honest horses that can cut, rope, rein or be a good pleasure horse,” says Leland. “My ideal horse is kind, athletic, with good feet, straight legs and good eye appeal. We have always stressed that horses need to be gentle, intelligent and athletic, and that’s why people have loved our horses for so many years.”

Customers from across the nation have noticed.

“We have raised and sold horses from Washington to Florida, from California to New York, and everywhere in between,” Leland says. “It’s satisfying to get phone calls of how well their horses have worked out. A man from New York who raises Thoroughbreds bought a mare from us for trail riding. He would call me regularly to tell me how much they loved her and that if the barn was on fire, she would be the first one to come out. We showed Blackburns Cowboy, a 2001 son of Coco Blackburn to second at halter in a large class at Grand Island, Nebraska, and then sold him to a man from Missouri, who told us his trainer said he was the smartest horse he ever trained.”

And that, after all, is the bottom line.

“It’s an achievement for us to have raised horses for 50 years that people could enjoy and love.”